Make reading active with these annotation strategies

Make reading active with these annotation strategies

Annotation is an important skill that makes readers interact and connect with a text. It transforms readers from third-party observers into a part of the story, supporting deeper understanding and improved retention.

Instead of simply reading along, those who learn to take effective notes question, analyze, and think critically about the information they’re absorbing. In short, annotation is a key piece of the critical thinking puzzle!

But as a wise man once said, “don’t take my word for it.”

“My students are able to find main ideas in their texts and flag things that are confusing or interesting.” –Sara Rao: 1st Grade Teacher, Fort Atkinson School District, Wisconsin


“I believe this is a skill they will continue to use in elementary school, middle school, high school and higher education and I want to make sure they learn effective strategies for note-taking/annotations early on. My goal is for students to eventually be able to pause and analyze important concepts and information independently.” –Melissa Garcia: 3rd and 4th Grade Teacher, Schaumburg School District 54, Illinois


“Annotation can be challenging, but I feel that it’s a very important skill for them to learn…It allows teachers to monitor student’s learning, check for comprehension, and make sure that students are pulling out key points from the text. It’s also a way for students to reflect on how they are doing with a specific piece of information.” –Heather Fetherston: 4th Grade Teacher, Jefferson School District, Wisconsin

So, how can you support close reading with specific activities? Don’t worry – I have you covered! Try this three-part strategy for developing close-reading skills through annotation.

Part 1: Explore new vocabulary

Choose a text. As students read it through the first time, ask them to highlight* unknown words to investigate.

Part 2: Pulling out key concepts

Pose teacher-led questions** as they read through for a second time. This allows the teacher to not only check for student comprehension but also to review the student’s ability to supply the new information in their own words.

Part 3: Inspire student-led inquiry

Have students follow the inquiry model as they read through the text for a third time and formulate*** their own questions for further study.


Now go give it a try!


Note: We’ve used Britannica LaunchPacks: Social Studies in this annotation activity. If you aren’t already a user, you can get free access now to 1,600 curriculum-relevant subject Packs that include organized supplemental resources, such as informational text, media, timelines, maps, and primary sources.

*If you’re using a LaunchPacks article, have students use the color-coded “Vocabulary” annotation category. Once the article has been highlighted, the student can switch back to “read” mode and use the double-click dictionary to hear the pronunciation and read the definition.

**If you’re using a LaunchPacks article, you can add notes into a specific article, or, if you want students to look at multiple texts within a Pack, you can add a note to the entire Pack. With either of these note-adding techniques, your note will carry over into the article view and students can see the questions as they read the text.

***If you’re using a LaunchPacks article, students can use the color-coded “Question” annotation category to highlight text in the article that sparked a question. They can type their question in the comment box.

How to annotate with Britannica LaunchPacks


About The Author

Kelli Johns

Assistant Director of Education Consultants

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